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OBJECTIVE: To determine the frequency and determinants of dental caries among children with special health care needs in the special needs schools of Karachi, Pakistan
METHODS: This cross-sectional study was conducted among 196 children (aged 6-18 years) attending the public and private sector special-needs schools of Karachi, Pakistan. Children with mental and/or physical disability were included in the study. Prevalence of dental caries determined oral examination using the Decayed Missing Filled Teeth and Decayed Filled Teeth (DMFT/dft) index. Parental education level, oral health knowledge and house-hold level socioeconomic status were measured through a structured questionnaire. Data were analyzed in SPSS version 20.
RESULTS: The overall frequency of dental caries was 58.2% with 70.3% and 55.3% prevalence in the public and private special needs schools. The mean DMFT/dft value was 1.85±2.28. The Down syndrome group had the highest mean (DMFT/dft=2.45±2.65), followed by the group including (vision impairment, autistic and cerebral palsy children) (DMFT/dft=2.05±2.51), Intellectual disability (DMFT/dft=1.70±2.01) and the deaf or hard of hearing group (DMFT/dft =1.49±2.27). Caries status was not significantly associated with gender (p=.518), socioeconomic status (p=.067), father education (p=.158) and mother education (p=.758).
CONCLUSION: The frequency of dental caries was high among children with disabilities in the Karachi district of Pakistan. The most important factor in improving the oral health status of these children is the awareness of their families by continuous community oriented medical and dental education programs.
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